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iPads, iRobot, iSee - Progress 2019 - A Closer Look - MessAge Media: Education

iPads, iRobot, iSee

iPads, iRobot, iSee - Progress 2019 - A Closer Look

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Posted: Friday, March 29, 2019 5:00 am

"I would say that the McGregor School District is very well-equipped in the area of technology,” said McGregor Schools Superintendent Paul Grams. “The school has continued to add more technology and upgrade some of the older technology,” Jack Brula, the district’s technology coordinator elaborated. District-wide, all of the school phones have been replaced with IP phones. The IP technology provides for transmitting telephone calls over an IP network, such as the internet, instead of the traditional public telephone network. The district also has 54 operational video cameras in place and plans to add a few more.

HANDS-ON IN CLASS AND ON BUSES

Every student in the McGregor School District, grades 4-12, is equipped with a Chromebook computer, while third graders have iPads. Students’ connectivity to the internet has also improved recently. “We upgraded the school network so that all of the school data closets are connected by fiber,” explained Brula. “We’ve added more access points (APs) and tripled the bandwidth coming into the school in the past few years.” Every classroom has an AP along with the labs and gyms. Access points act as a communication hub for users of a wireless device to connect to a wired local area network. They are important for providing heightened wireless security and for extending the physical range of service, providing students with better connections to the internet from mobile devices.

At the current time, the district has five computer labs with at least 25 computers per lab. In the near future, the district is considering replacing the computers in one of those five labs. The newest lab is in the shop area where computers are used for 3D designing. The designs are fed into computerized plasma cutters and 3D printers.

Two years ago, WIFI was installed on each school bus and several hotspots were purchased for students to take home if they have issues with not being able to access the internet from their house.

All servers in the district have been replaced with newer computers. “Two years ago, we added a caching server to the network, which allows us to speed up our Internet access,” noted Brula. “Also, the caching server allows us to download videos to a media library, which gives students access to these videos without having to download them from the Internet.” The content filter will be replaced this coming summer with a newer model, which will allow for increased internet bandwidth up to 1Gbps (one gigabyte per second).

Every classroom is also equipped with an interactive whiteboard and projector. Along with the new hardware at the school, McGregor subscribes to several online curriculums. Accelerated Reader provides for reading instruction and testing, while SuccessMaker provides math and language instruction. Staff members use GoGuardian and Schoology, applications which help with classroom instruction.

ROBOTICS

McGregor students in some elementary grades are experiencing the world of beginner robotics with Dash and Ozobot robots according to McGregor Schools Grant Coordinator Cheryl Meld. These user-friendly robots allow children to learn about coding using iPads loaded with apps that help the Dash robot interact with its environment. Students gain confidence as they use the software or voice commands to make Dash robots complete tasks such as launching a catapult; playing the xylophone; or following a prescribed pathway with turns, stops and response sounds.

Ozobots, sometimes called the world’s smallest smart robots, are pocket-sized robots used for app-connected coding. “Currently, the robots are used in our 4th-6th grade gifted and talented program and in afterschool programs,” said Meld. “Gifted and talented coordinator Dani Johnson is working with teachers to integrate robotics into daytime classroom activities as well.”

FAMILY STEM NIGHTS

“Our 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant sponsors monthly Family Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Nights,” said Meld. A typical session includes a light meal followed by a one-hour exploratory STEM activity, such as using simple machines to design and build a game, beginning robotics and constructing a model car used for distance challenges. The sessions are free of charge and are intended to spark STEM learning across a broad age range from kindergarten to adult. The 21st CCLC grants are federal dollars administered through the Minnesota Department of Education, according to Meld.

“The McGregor School District is keeping up with the fast-paced and ever-changing advances in technology to best meet the needs of their students and staff and prepare students for the future,” concluded Brula.

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